All eyes on Ward to make 1st pitch

All eyes on Ward to make 1st pitch
Union City Cal Ripken League president Bill Davis believes it is time Mark Ward got his moment in the limelight.
Ward, who has been involved with youth league baseball in Union City for 38 years, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Rookie League Southeast Regional tonight at 5:30.
“Mark has been very instrumental in many children’s lives in Union City with the late Jim Cawley in the Babe Ruth League,” Davis said. “Mark has always been the one who didn’t want all the limelight and he took care of the little things and tied loose ends. However, I wanted him to have a moment to shine and be thanked for all of his service and that is what I see him throwing out the first pitch as.”
Ward has indeed been a jack of all trades for the Union City Babe Ruth League, serving many years as the league’s vice president, as a coach and as the de facto groundskeeper at times.
Furthermore, in 1991, he helped to create the coach pitch league in UC along with a group of other youth league supporters.
At the time, the league was used to bridge the gap from T-ball to Minor League. Over the past few years, it has switched to a pitching machine and became the Cal Ripken Rookie League, the level for which the Southeast Regional is in town for.
“I am flattered that I have been chosen for this honor,” Ward said. “I’d rather be in the background watching as things unfold, but this is an honor that I hold dear due to its close proximity to my work in the Babe Ruth League, which the Cal Ripken League is a part of.”
Otherwise, Ward was also key along with Cawley in getting the first Southeast Regional berth for the city in 2000.
SOLID VOLUNTEER STATE: Tennessee is well-represented at this year’s Southeast Regional. A total of six squads from the “Volunteer State” are in the tournament with the host Union City, Martin and North Gibson County able to sleep in their own beds each nights.
Martin won the West Tennessee Cal Ripken crown to get to the tournament while North Gibson County replaces the West North Carolina runner-up, which was unable to make it to the event.
West Tennessee runner-up Decatur County is also in the mix as a replacement for Alabama runner-up Decator County.
Otherwise, Franklin represents Middle Tennessee while the Smokies team carries the banner for the eastern portion of the state.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS: Confusion could take place on the scorecards if Franklin and Santa Fe, Fla., end up meeting on the field.
Both teams have a player listed on their rosters named Nick Johnson.
Meanwhile, there could be other Johnsons on the field to keep track of throughout the duration of the tournament.
The Smokies list T. Johnson on their roster and Decatur County has Dylan Johnson on its roster.
FAMILIAR FACES: The concession stand won’t be the only place to see a familiar face during this year’s Southeast Regional.
Local umpires Jim Glasgow Jr. and Terry Speed will take to the fields to call numerous games throughout the Cal Ripken event.
For Speed, it will be his third Southeast Regional as he previously officiated in the 2003 and 2007 Babe Ruth events.
Meanwhile, Glasgow, who is the umpire-in-chief for the event, is making his UC Southeast Regional debut this year.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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